With White House counselor Kellyanne Conway sitting nearby in the briefing room, press secretary Sean Spicer insisted she was joking when she made her infamous comment about microwave surveillance.
“I will just say the president has tweeted about this,” said Spicer when asked to clarify whether Trump thought he had been betrayed by his microwave during Tuesday’s briefing, “he’s pretty clear there was surveillance, conducted during the 2016 election; going to wait for the conclusion of that. I think there’s pretty sound evidence that the microwave is not a sound way of surveilling someone, and I think that has been cleaned up; it was made in jest, so I think we can put that to rest.”
Spicer was attempting to play off comments Conway had made in a Sunday interview with the Record, a New Jersey newspaper. The publication asked Conway about President Trump’s evidence-free assertion that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower before the election.
“There are many ways to surveil each other,” said Conway. “There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, through certainly their television sets — any number of different ways. Microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. So we know that is just a fact of modern life.”
The theory didn’t seem to be a joke at the time, instead apparently referring to documents leaked by WikiLeaks stating that the CIA was purportedly spying by hacking household devices. In morning show interviews on Monday, Conway admitted she has no evidence to back up either Trump’s wiretapping claim or her home-appliance spy theory. She did not claim she was jesting.
“I wasn’t making a suggestion about Trump Tower,” Conway said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“I’m not Inspector Gadget,” she said on CNN’s “New Day.” “I don’t believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign. However, I’m not in the job of having evidence. That’s what investigations are for.”
Classifying Conway’s comment as a joke comes a day after Spicer said that you could always trust what the president said as long as he wasn’t speaking in jest.
“If he’s not joking, of course,” said Spicer during Monday’s briefing. “Every time that he speaks authoritatively, that he speaks, he’s speaking as president of the United States.”
Conway suffered through a series of flubs and inaccuracies in the early days of the administration, coining the much-mocked phrase “alternative facts,” inventing the fictional “Bowling Green massacre” and urging Fox News viewers to buy first daughter Ivanka Trump’s products, an apparent violation of ethics rules.